The Positive Impact of Collaboration on Independence

Anil Lewis smiling at his desk holding his iPhone.

The Positive Impact of Collaboration on Independence

The National Federation of the Blind is committed to being present and actively participating in forums that foster innovation toward increased independence. These gatherings present us with a wonderful opportunity to identify potential partners in our effort to create innovative, transformative technologies. That is why I will be attending the 2018 M-Enabling Summit Conference and Showcase. In prior years the conference was simply focused on the development of mobile computing technologies. Now it is a showcase dedicated to promoting accessible and assistive technology for senior citizens and users of all abilities. In 2017 I had the pleasure of presenting during the opening keynote panel, “Robotics” along with our partners and friends at Amazon, Deque, IBM, and Microsoft.

The evolution of the utility of the mobile phone is demonstrative of the evolution of the M-Enabling Summit. It used to just be a simple little portable mobile phone that I could use to make phone calls. Now this portable, powerful, little smartphone has positively impacted my life in ways that I could have never imagined. And it has the potential to continue to create more opportunities for enhanced independence for everyone. Here are just a few examples of how collaboration between consumers and innovators has positively impacted my ability to independently use this device. I use my smartphone to:

  • Access information: I can use it to read text messages, emails, social media posts, e-books, and other electronic documents. I can access NFB-NEWSLINE® and read over 500 newspapers and magazines, access TV listings, get weather reports, and actively search for a job. I can use the KNFB Reader® to snap a picture of printed material and have it instantly read to me.
  • Manage my finances: I can check my bank balances, transfer money between accounts, send and receive money from family and friends, and even monitor my son’s spending. The most convenient feature is the ability to independently snap a photo of a check and have it deposited directly into my account.
  • Travel: I can order a driver, get information on the driver and the vehicle, obtain a quote for the cost of the trip, get notifications of the driver’s progress, and pay seamlessly with an app. For years, GPS apps have been used to provide information about points of interests and directions to assist drivers and walkers to navigate from place to place with turn-by-turn directions. The emerging indoor navigation apps provide similar information about indoor spaces that allow me to navigate through airports, train stations, malls, offices, and other buildings.

This is only a small sample of the positive impact innovative mobile apps have had on my life, and the lives of other blind people. The M-Enabling Summit has similarly evolved to serve as an incubator of innovative ideas and concepts that have the potential to expand opportunity and discovery for many of us.

If we, the nation’s blind, are to ensure that there is thoughtful development of additional innovative uses of this technology, we, the consumers, must be in the room with the engineers and developers where the discussions happen. With its theme of “Accessible and Assistive Technologies Innovations: New Frontiers for Independent Living,” the 2018 M-Enabling Summit will provide a platform for empowering technologies and focus on next-generation innovations and breakthroughs for users of all abilities. That’s why I am excited to participate in the 2018 M-Enabling Summit this June 11-13, 2018 in Washington DC. Please join me!